Big Christmas Dare...

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Christmas is conflicting for me. Not because I am a pagan. As a rebel soul I am more partial to Halloween- and the unbridled creativity of the 'anything goes' spirit of the holiday.  Nonetheless,  I see the beauty and the potential in this beautiful time of year when the night is long and the days are short. There is beauty and sweetness in the traditions of Christmas, that I know. Yet there is a lurking melancholy that seeps in through the cracks for me. A sadness hovers and a feeling of inadequacy- will our efforts be enough for loved ones? Will they like the gifts we bought or crave gifts that we didn't buy?

 It makes me sad to think of cutting down a tree only to have it die in my home. The consumer culture has a cost for our planet that we can no longer deny. Our homes are already full of things we don't really need and yet others are without a home at all. Still there is beauty and peace too and you deserve to enjoy it- because YOU - ARE ENOUGH.

This year, the greatest gift I have received has been soul daring. Writing this blog and disrupting mundane routines with bold playful actions has been nothing less than the gift of freedom. I have found the curiosity and magic I left behind in childhood. I hope that you have too. Daring truth has brought me closer to a sense of unbridled self-acceptance.

So here is my big Christmas dare. To my readers, supporters and fellow soul darers, a big thank you for signing up, for being out of your comfort zone, for being curious and for being bold.

I dare you to carve out a pure moment of time for yourself.  Sometime between now and New Years. Sit down. Turn off the electric lights and your phone. Light a candle. Gather yourself- all of the energies that have may leaked away from you. Be in front of a mirror if you like.

Play this. LOVESONG by the Cure.

 

Play it once perhaps and listen to the words. Play it a second time. Dedicate every single word, every note, every space between the notes to YOURSELF.

I wish you the gift of wholeness and radical self acceptance this holiday season.

"Lovesong"
 

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

(Fly me to the moon)

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am free again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am clean again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

-The Cure

There is no greater gift than the act of radical self- love.

 

 

 

 The day I did this dare, I was in Salem, Mass visiting my daughter who is in College in Boston. She had a full day of classes and rehearsals, so i took myself on a date. It was a wonderful gray November day. I allowed my every whim, visiting the Witch Trial Museum, lingering in bookstores and magic shops. I indulged myself with the circlet I am wearing in the picture and treated myself to a dinner of Guiness Stew and a pint of pumpkin cider. When I got back to my hotel room, I was rocking The Cure, my absolute favorite band. I was sitting down to meditate, when Lovesong came on. The nature of the day caused my to hear the lyrics in a different way than ever before. Just as I dared you to do, I dedicated all of the words to my date, myself. I listened three times and wept freely as a feeling of forgiveness and complete love washed over me. I took this selfie right after this experience. Not even bothering to wipe away the spots where my make-up had run down the sides of my nose. I hope for you, beloved reader, that your experience is equally as powerful.

The day I did this dare, I was in Salem, Mass visiting my daughter who is in College in Boston. She had a full day of classes and rehearsals, so i took myself on a date. It was a wonderful gray November day. I allowed my every whim, visiting the Witch Trial Museum, lingering in bookstores and magic shops. I indulged myself with the circlet I am wearing in the picture and treated myself to a dinner of Guiness Stew and a pint of pumpkin cider. When I got back to my hotel room, I was rocking The Cure, my absolute favorite band. I was sitting down to meditate, when Lovesong came on. The nature of the day caused my to hear the lyrics in a different way than ever before. Just as I dared you to do, I dedicated all of the words to my date, myself. I listened three times and wept freely as a feeling of forgiveness and complete love washed over me. I took this selfie right after this experience. Not even bothering to wipe away the spots where my make-up had run down the sides of my nose. I hope for you, beloved reader, that your experience is equally as powerful.

 No-Kill Christmas Tree; My solution to the Christmas Tree dilemma.  I was not going to get a tree this year, but I was driving by a local nursery and noticed that among the dwindling supply of Christmas trees in their lot, there were long beautiful branches scattered all over the asphalt. They were the low hanging boughs sawed away to adjust the stem of the tree for their bases. So I entered the store and boldly asked if I could have a few of the scattered boughs. The owner said, "Sure, have at it." So I hauled them away and took them home to arrange them in this vase. Dilemma solved. Here is my opportunistic no-kill Christmas tree.

No-Kill Christmas Tree; My solution to the Christmas Tree dilemma.

I was not going to get a tree this year, but I was driving by a local nursery and noticed that among the dwindling supply of Christmas trees in their lot, there were long beautiful branches scattered all over the asphalt. They were the low hanging boughs sawed away to adjust the stem of the tree for their bases. So I entered the store and boldly asked if I could have a few of the scattered boughs. The owner said, "Sure, have at it." So I hauled them away and took them home to arrange them in this vase. Dilemma solved. Here is my opportunistic no-kill Christmas tree.

November Dare- Gratitude Graffiti.

This Dare will be short and sweet as we are working hard on making or first tangible product available in time for the holiday; 50 dares. A playful path to transformation.

This dare stems from my love of graffiti. Something about the daring act of creating a public statement in a creative way fills me with excitement.  

Graffiti makes us think.  It can make us wonder and ponder things we hadn't before. It can shake us out of patterned thinking and the highway hypnosis of adult life. I marvel at how and why someone would crawl into a dangerous space and risk arrest just to make a statement. Graffiti epitomizes the spirit of soul daring. 

So this month I am daring you to wield this simple power for good.  

I dare you to create a public expression of gratitude.  

That is all. Use your creativity, originality and heart-inspiration. Use a marker, paint or even something temporary like birdseed or leaves. Your message will matter to someone, somewhere. The impact will be felt- and may manifest in mysterious invisible ways. Enjoy. 

It's truly a rush.  

 

October

 

 

 One of my favorite reasons for daring is the opportunity to engage different sides of ourselves. At least for a moment, we can slip out from under the tenets of our “civilized”culture and express both our earth-bound animal selves and our more ethereal, spiritual, soul-selves.  Autumn dares us to engage with light and dark, life and death. The air is charged with an electric spark, audible in the scrape of dry leaves blowing down the street. When light passes through them, the dying leaves seem more alive than ever.  During these enchanted, darkening weeks, we beings of the earth are ripe to imagine that anything can happen. As we plan out costumes and put out decorations, we invite fear and make mystery   welcome in our homes. In harmony with Earth’s process of death, we celebrate the magical moment when two worlds collide.  This month I dare you to give darkness and death their due.   October Da res

One of my favorite reasons for daring is the opportunity to engage different sides of ourselves. At least for a moment, we can slip out from under the tenets of our “civilized”culture and express both our earth-bound animal selves and our more ethereal, spiritual, soul-selves.

Autumn dares us to engage with light and dark, life and death. The air is charged with an electric spark, audible in the scrape of dry leaves blowing down the street. When light passes through them, the dying leaves seem more alive than ever.

During these enchanted, darkening weeks, we beings of the earth are ripe to imagine that anything can happen. As we plan out costumes and put out decorations, we invite fear and make mystery welcome in our homes. In harmony with Earth’s process of death, we celebrate the magical moment when two worlds collide.

This month I dare you to give darkness and death their due.

October Dares

1. Take yourself on a date to the cemetery. Bring flowers and a picnic to the grave that looks the most neglected or forgotten. Raise a glass to the dead and to la muerte herself--the great patron saint of death. She may be the most faithful friend you will ever have.

Great peace can be found in embracing the simple and final facts. No matter what stresses we may endure or how significant our lives seem, the end result is the same for everyone. Everyone. Celebrate this truth.

hornsandbones.jpg Photo- Sarah Hope

 

2. Create an altar to remember the dead. Make an artful dedication to loss and remembrance Place fresh gifts and sweets for loved ones who have transitioned. Take time to celebrate the next chapter, the one known only by those who have left their bodies.

102-grave_1820 Photo Matt Chmielarczyk

3. Celebrate darkness. Turn off everything and try to find your way around on the dark. Reacquaint yourself with your instincts and unnamed senses that guide you.

The earth depends on fallow times of long dark nights and short cold days. During these times, the earth rests and regenerates. Being of the earth, we need fallow times and darkness as well. 

We need time without screens, dings, buzzes and blinking lights. So unplug. Wander around. Have a conversation in complete darkness. Take time to notice the different quality of a conversation without distraction, only voices. Allow yourself to observe the changes in the quality of light as darkness falls each night. Describe those changes aloud or in writing. Find just the right words- or don’t. Perhaps just observe- wordlessly.

      Why?

When we dare, we have the opportunity to remember parts ourselves that we forgot. We have access to wonder- we can find the treasures in-between. We stir up energy in our lives when we dare to do things differently- and we have access to the power to create new ways of being. Sometimes new solutions to problems can come in. We can resonate with the energies of the earth easily forgotten in the wheel of routine. Gifts abound there. Find them with me. We will all do this differently- part of the beauty of daring. As before, I welcome your reflections, experiences and feedback. With your permission,I will be glad to publish pictures, journal entries or any other media inspired by this project. Please email me at sarah@souldaring.com

Wonder, curiosity and yet another truth...

               

 

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Photo by Matt Chmielarczyk      www.mattchmielarczykphotography.squarespace.com

 

I got tired. Really tired. I wanted to sleep every day as soon as I got home and that was all I wanted to do. 

It is always like that in the beginning of the school year. It is hard to adjust. I become so expansive during the summer, reading, meditating, having great conversations, daydreaming.... Then the year begins and I have the feeling of having to stuff myself back in to a tame and sensible life. Imagine stuffing a giant sleeping bag into the tiny little sack that came with it- it feels like it will never fit. I feel like I will never fit. But I always do- eventually.

 I began to think I was foolish to try to carry on this Truth and Dare project and be a full-time teacher. I was. A little. I was considering ending the project. But then I realized something else. I need this project and I think others do too.

I've still been doing weekly dares and reaping great benefit. I just didn't think I had the time to write about them weekly. I developed a deer in headlights feeling towards my writing, not knowing quite what to do.

Then three days ago,  came my AHA moment. I created this project for people just like me- people that have tough jobs and long hours. I created this project as a way to experience freedom, curiosity,  freshness and mindfulness when you don't have a plane ticket to Italy and Indonesia or even a vacation. I created this project to be the opposite of "privileged literature". I wanted to create a way for us to find the "expansiveness" and unexpected joy into our daily lives. A way to discover all of the wonder in between the things we notice.

So I decided to change weekly dares to monthly dares. You are as busy as I am. If it is hard to manage for me, then it is probably hard to manage for you. I get that now.

Each month will be based around a theme. September is space. Where can it be found in between moments of stress and overwhelm?

Here are three dares.

I dare you to be bored. Do nothing for 10 minutes to an hour.

I dare you to notice wonder. What are the things that made you wonder? Write them.

I dare you to take a silent walk with another person. Notice things.

Find space with me. I dare you to. I dare us all to.

Let's inspire each other. Help keep me inspired too. Please share comments. Like this post. Share this post. Help create a ripple of beautiful boredom, wonder and space by sharing the project with others.

Post Script: I have been daring to do live broadcasts weekly. I did not want to. I never thought I would. If you asked me to a month ago, I would have said "hell to the no!"

I am vain. I think my face looks funny, my voice sounds awkward, I may say something stupid...but a week ago a friend dared me to do it.

Damn dares. It's hard to turn one down. That is why they are magic. I did it. I lived through it. I did it again the next week. I am not cured of vanity and insecurity- but they can't exactly dictate my life anymore. I defied my insecurities and acted anyway. There is some amazing potential in such such rebellion and defiance against our own limitations-and speaks to the value of this work. This is just one of the many powers of daring; to rebel against our own limits.

If you want me to be interviewed, email me at sarah@souldaring.com.

 

 

Rediscover the Lost Art of Boredom

The Lost Art of Boredom

 When I was a little girl in I used to seek out patches of sunlight in the house. I can still remember the feeling. I would watch bugs crawl on the window and wonder where they were going. I would watch the shadows shift outside and ponder the deep greens and vibrant glowing ones. Closing my eyes I could feel my sense of self hovering above me, much bigger than my body. I wondered how I could fit myself back in sometimes. It was a glorious feeling. It was magical, needless, timeless. It was what I later learned might be called boredom.  When we learn about boredom, it comes with negative connotations. Yet, there was nothing negative about these magical "nothings" of childhood.  Boredom as a negative comes with the knowledge of lack - there is a feeling that the world is not enough, that we ourselves are not enough.  We are enough. YOU are enough. And boredom is gift. My gift to you this week, and yours to keep. It is the forgotten jewel at the bottom of a cluttered box. Boredom is the velvety black soil of a fertile mind.

When I was a little girl in I used to seek out patches of sunlight in the house. I can still remember the feeling. I would watch bugs crawl on the window and wonder where they were going. I would watch the shadows shift outside and ponder the deep greens and vibrant glowing ones. Closing my eyes I could feel my sense of self hovering above me, much bigger than my body. I wondered how I could fit myself back in sometimes. It was a glorious feeling. It was magical, needless, timeless. It was what I later learned might be called boredom.

When we learn about boredom, it comes with negative connotations. Yet, there was nothing negative about these magical "nothings" of childhood.

Boredom as a negative comes with the knowledge of lack - there is a feeling that the world is not enough, that we ourselves are not enough.

We are enough. YOU are enough. And boredom is gift. My gift to you this week, and yours to keep. It is the forgotten jewel at the bottom of a cluttered box. Boredom is the velvety black soil of a fertile mind.

Turn off your phone. Sit down.  

Close your eyes or don't. I am daring you to do nothing. Do nothing for ten minutes.  

Overachievers? Win this one by underachieving. Do nothing for an hour.  

This is not meditating- no need to reel in your mind. Let it wander. Do not try to tame your thoughts. 

 We are bigger than our bodies, bigger even than the lives we live.  

We stuff our enormous selves into containers and create distractions to keep ourselves there. What happens when we deliberately put them away? 

The consciousness begins to weave its way around the room, changing shape, creating new potential universes. Emotions come in too. They ask to be felt and moved through us. This is healthy. We were born to be conduits of emotions, of thoughts, of energy. 

Maybe stresses will come in. Things You have been trying avoid thinking about. Be with them. Let them come in. Just sit. Perhaps new solutions or ideas for how to solve them will come through. 

Personally, this dare has been hard, so challenging for me that I have been putting it off for days. You see,  my youngest daughter Evalina left for Indonesia this week to become a Shark Warrior with the Gili Shark Conservation. This leaves my husband  Matt and I with an empty home for the very first time. So much of my identity is wrapped up in being a mother. The last thing I thought I needed was emptiness. But, I did it. At first, every time I sat down, my eyes would fill up with tears. I don't cry often. I almost ached to get up and do something, anything. Instead I stayed- I dared to. The tears began to roll, pretty soon my shoulders were shaking. It was a rolling storm of a cry. It lasted a long time.

Who wants a thunderous cry? The thing is, it was exactly what I needed. Beneath the tears, there was love, a deep clear love, for myself, for my family, for the very nature of being a sentient being. The emotions I was blocking with distraction were also standing in the way of my ability to tap into infinite love and peace. 

Be bored. Allow your consciousness to go wandering outside of you. Expand. Whatever comes up it is exactly right. Ideas and solutions can be found here. 

 There are gifts in your nothing. Treasures in your boredom. Enjoy. This one is on the house. You're welcome. 

 

 

Dropping into the body...

Week of dares to remember what a gift it can be to inhabit a body. 

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When was the last time you felt mud squishing through your toes or plunged your hand into a bag of rice?  It feels like days go by when the only thing we hold with intention is the steering wheel or our cell phones.  

When I saw a recent post from a wise yogini reminding us to drop into the sensations of the body, I immediately began to think of how to make a dare for all of us around doing just that.  

    As children we are constantly seeking out sensations of the body- running our hands along bumpy walls until they are buzzing with sensation, playing with silly putty and green slime- often getting into trouble for making a mess by sticking our hands into a lovely piece of cake.  

   As we grow and our heads fill with responsibilities, worries and thoughts we can sometimes even forget we have a body- unless it reminds us with some ache or discomfort.  

  So this week your dare is to drop into the body every day. 

Plunge your hands into a bag of rice.  

Find mud and sink your feet into it.  

Go out walking in wet grass at night with your bare feet.  

Use organic soap to make a lather in the sink- hold it up to your face and feel the tiny bubbles burst against your skin.  

Put your pajamas or your sheets into the freezer for 10 minutes, then put them on.  

Heat river stones in the oven and hold them on different places on your body.  

Run the fringe of a shawl along your legs.   

Lie on the grass and put your bare feet on the bark of a tree.  

How do you drop into the sensations of the body? Share your ideas with me and I will add them. Please let me know how it goes.  

Befriending Fear

Your weekly dare -

a case for fear.... 

I am on the road headed south to Mission Wolf, an off the grid self, self- sustaining sanctuary for rescued wolves. 

This journey engage with this beautiful and misunderstood animal seems a good time to write about a misunderstood emotion. 

My dare for you this week is dedicated to the great underdog of emotions- Fear. This is the force that has kept me alive all of these years. How could I not be grateful? I LOVE FEAR. It has always been a good friend- maybe too good at times- but always faithful. 

 On the quest for self actualiziation people tend to say things like... 

"oh if only I could get over my fear I would ......" fill in the blank with signature of ambition. This is an unreasonable request. Fear is part of our design. Some of us carry more than others but WE ALL HAVE IT. It is good.

Yet,when we don't have a good relationship with fear it can easily be used to control us. The corporate giants are making a killing off of unchecked fear- they would have many of us staying inside safe, watching TV-, nurturing more fear. While the self-help industry would have us buying books to conquer our fear and achieve our dreams. 

Fear is another aspect of ourselves, part of our emotional ecosystem- trying to protect us. But from what? Do we even know? 

  There are so many varieties; fear of rejection, humiliation, disgust, judgment, loss? Fear may be dictating our behavior- but do we know why? 

If fear is just another aspect of ourselves, maybe we can collaborate? Get conversational? Interview our fear?  Maybe strike a compromise? 

Say that there is a fear- self. What does it look like? 

Conversation moves energy and brings clarity. So this weeks dare is something you can do with another person.

I dare you to:

Write a list of your fears:

Describe them. What do they look like? 

What is their purpose? 

 Why are they fears? What do you think could happen? 

Are they standing between you and something that you want? 

If fearself had a voice, what would it sound like and what would they say?  

Ask a friend to do the same and discuss the list. 

How would you befriend one of your fears? What would it look like to strike a compromise?  Could you collaborate with your fear?

  When we examine what we are afraid of, we find it changes. When we coax emotions of of the shadow and shine the light of consciousness on them, they change.  

   Let fear be a friend this week. Give some love and compassion to the guardians most delicate inner-self. I dare you to- and write. Journal this adventure.

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I Ain't Sorry

Today’s dare is a both big and small

 

camille

 

So big it could change the fabric of consciousness if it were to spread far enough.Yet it is also as small as the flap of a butterfly wing… it is a quiet warrior of a dare.It is harder than you may think and has more impact than you can imagine…

 Today I dare you to omit the word sorry from your vocabulary for the entire weekend.

Double dare: I dare you to omit the word sorry for a week- for a month…?

Giving up the word "sorry" is a hard dare. Fear Not. There are replacement words for sorry. We can thank my clever friend Szaz for the following public service announcement to help us with this dare.

  PSA:

The word sorry and all of its derivatives has been cancelled. SORRY

Replacement Options Include:

    A) Surprise!

   B) You're welcome?

   C) Thank you

I have been testing out this dare for a few days now and I can attest that it is a sleeper hit. It is harder than it may seem at first. It maybe harder for some than others.This weekend with a group of friends, I practiced cancelling sorry. Some of the conversations that ensued were hilarious.

-          I threw up on your shirt… SURPRISE!

-          I ran over your foot with my bike!… You’re welcome??

-          I ate all of your olives!.... THANK YOU, they were so good.

  We played with this for a long time conversing about what it would mean to omit “sorry” from your vocabulary. It would definitely have an impact on the fabric of meaning. If you accidently bumped in to someone’s cart at the grocery story- surprise!.... challenged someone’s belief… you’re welcome?

   The same day I wrote this, I accidentally forgot to tell a friend that I could not make it over for a movie night she invited me to. When I realized this, I felt awful. I could not say "Sorry", but I was naturally contrite. Because I couldn't say or use the word ‘sorry’, all I could do was own my part in it and tell her how I was feeling. The conversation went like this:

          "I completely forgot to tell you I couldn't come to over tonight!   I hope you still love me... Ilove you!"

   The challenge deepened my connection to the experience, and tell a rather- new friend how I felt.

        I am not saying on any level that I am against apologizing. I love apologies- I would even go so far as to say I crave them.  They are the verbal equivalent of “rinsing or showering” – if they are sincere. But...

.How would you change things if you couldn’t just say ‘sorry’?”

  We would have to become more mindful around what we do and less eager to blame when there is no fault. Apology can be overused. We tend to apologize for things we shouldn’t be sorry for. We can even an unconscious energy of apology simply being or getting basic needs met . I am sorry Ineed help… I am sorry I can’t do this alone.  Being apologetic can block us from getting what we want- or feeling that we are worthy of it. .

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"Sorry" can be dangerous. There is a hungry, clumsy energy that hovers around this word sometimes. "Sorry" can also permit a certain carelessness that actually dismisses or passes over the truth behind an issue. I am proposing that we try to shake things up. Shake up the energy around apology with a little fast for apology.

  I am challenging you to give up the word for a few days to stir up new energy in your life. While you are at it, get clear on where you feel apologetic and have nothing to be sorry for, it will create space to clear on where you truly need to seek forgiveness and where you do not.

 

 

 

 

 

#notsorry

So tell me…

What are you not sorry for? send me pics, journal entries, comments or essays at or even apply as a guest blogger sarah@souldaring.com

Also be sure to check thecommunity folder for participants notsorry pics.

Here are ten things I am not sorry for:

I am not sorry for having a human body

I am not sorry for being a female- and everything that goes with it

I am not sorry for having an impact in the world

I am not sorry for needing help

I am not sorry for NOT needing help

I am not sorry for taking time for myself

I am not sorry for not having money and for having money

I am not sorry that I want to be ridiculously happy

 

matt chmielarczyk
miette notsorry

Lights out...honey, sea salt...and the magic of presence.

Your weekly dare

lightsout

This week’s dare is rich and delicious… possibly even... sexy?

I will explain, but to do so I will have to weave together a series of events that co-created yet another masterpiece of a dare. I had written this dare when I first began the souldaring project, but it morphed-as dares do. Over time it took on a life of its' own. The beauty of souldaring is actually contained in this statement;  This is what happens; you do something-, in your way, because it is your life- so it looks different. Life is not linear or predictable. When you change one thing, something else happens- you get an idea-you see something you didn't before, and the adventure begins.

If you are busy, like me, you may not want the whole story- you may just want your weekly dare. I get it. So here it is. Reading on is optional- but you knew that.

Dare number 3:

This week I dare you to have a no-technology night.

That is, turn off all phones, computers, and televisions in the house.

Double dare: Turn off the lights too- using only candles.  (highly-highly recommended)

 

 I will be joining you joyfully, because I already know how good this one is.

 You see, back in June my aunt, Aunt Honey, had a stroke. She was in a coma- and would not recover.

 My first thought was throw some clean clothes into a backpack and drive to Montana- just to be near- be with the family, but the fifteen-hour drive was too much to pull off at the time.

 Still I wanted to connect with her somehow. I wanted to find a way to hold a space in my heart while she was in this in-between place. I took inspiration from a clever artist and dear friend, Marina Eckler, who used only candles to light her house for the entire month after her father passed. I loved this idea-an meaningful dedicated and private vigil. I knew it was the perfect way to honor my aunt.

 I told my daughter and husband about the idea and they agreed. Surprisingly, Evie, my -tech-savvy teen daughter, was especially into the idea and decided to come home early to be a part of it.

 Matt made a fire in the back yard, and I filled the house with candles. I didn’t know exactly what we would do. The though of no distractions seemed both peaceful and lovely and a little vulnerable and scary somehow. I don't know why.

 Sometime during the preparation it occurred to me that it would be nice to enjoy some of my Aunt Honey’s favorite foods. The problem was, most of the foods I remember her loving- were fresh seafood. Our family always gathered at the family home on Cape Cod where seafood was abundantly available. In landlocked-Colorado, fresh clams, lobster, and crab cakes are not easy to find or afford- plus it isn’t really the same to eat these things without the smell of the ocean and the sound of distant seagulls.

Seafood was not going to happen- but I did have a more literal tribute; raw honey from local bees. I have a vague memory of eating homemade vanilla ice cream with honey drizzled on top- I don't know if this was something I did with my Aunt or not- but it seemed a fitting choice. I sent Evie to the store to pick up some Haagen Dazs vanilla and stashed it in the freezer for later.

 As the sun went down, we quietly put away our phones shut down our devices and sat by the fire. We rolled through phases of talking and silence- easily noticing the change in light and outlandish phases of the sunset- drinking in the moment where the sun disappeared behind the tallest peak that towers above our town. There have never been words that I find adequate to describe the Colorado sunsets-or any sunsets- suffice to say that they are twice as good without distractions- or even the temptation to want to hold on- or grasp the untenable with a photograph.  

Although I did not see her often in my adult life- I was able to share some of the things I loved about my Aunt Honey with my husband and daughter, many of which were the impressions of a child- rather innocent and curious. Here is my Aunt as a child.

 And here are some of the things I really loved about her.        

  • She was a classic beauty- with Honey colored hair and fine features- yet she did not appear to spend a great deal of time on her appearance- no need really. She would simply comb her hair put on a summer shift or linen pants and pull a hot pink bougainvillea from the bush at the side of the house to put in her hair before dinner.

  • In the 1950’s portrait of my fathers’ family in the dining room of the Cape Cod summer house she is young – maybe 12- she is wearing high waisted pinstriped gray pants. There is a look of savvy, relaxed defiance on her face. Even then, she seemed ahead of her time.

  • She never spoke in hushed tones-not even around the children as the other adults did. She swore frequently and openly used inappropriate words, if they best served the story she was telling at the time. As a child, I adored her for this- as I hated to be talked down to. She never did that to me.

  • She was a brassy raconteuse, Matt likens her to Judy Garland later in life- smart, sassy, sharp-witted and classy with signs of hard-living but obvious charm. She was anything but demure- even when women were expected to be.

  • She was very capable person-, a professional woman with a stylish modern house we used to visit in Fort Lauderdale. My sister remembers her as a strong person.

  • But the most fascinating and probably my favorite trait was the fact that never tried to hide her shadow material. She openly admitted her mistakes in her life- shared her misadventures, owned her vices, and told things like they were. She was BRAVE AS F*CK- and no matter where she is I will always honor and admire her for that- and I know not everyone did.

   After sharing memories and watching the sky and the fire for a while, we decided to make the sundaes. Evie and I pulled out the vanilla ice cream and honey by candlelight and spooned them into bowls. While drizzling the honey over ice cream ( a beautiful sight by candle light) I spotted some pink Himalayan Sea Salt and decided to sprinkle a little over the top of the sundaes. The result was –delicious. So so good.

honey pink salt sundae

  Maybe it was twice as good without distractions- maybe not.

I do know that removal of technology and even lights gave this personal little memorial some impact.

Later a friend of Evie’s dropped by. He came to the back yard and sat down and said-

“Evie said I could come by if I left my phone in the car… I’m down with that”

 We all sat by the fire for a while longer. Matt played the mandolin and we talked about Tolkien and science. Evie said- I guess- this is what you do when you don’t have your phone- you talk about books and science.

After a while, Evie and her friend left. Matt and I put out the fire and most of the candles. Two of the larger ones we took to our bedroom.

Here is the mild TMI I mentioned so…. Consider yourself warned.

We found ourselves feeling very connected- a side-effect of the removal of distraction.

With not enough light to even read by, we had nothing in the way of intimacy.

The result was...-umm… amazing marital relations.

 It seems we found the sexiest thing we had was... presence.

Sexier than a drawer full of lingerie... we had the magic of presence.

Full intentional presence- is, perhaps the best aphrodisiac I have ever experienced.

If I could wrap it and sell it or write a little jingle maybe...

"Everything is better with presence..."

"Give them all a little dab of presence

"Or (said in a husky female voice)... presence... put it on before you put on anything else- your man WILL notice.

or for guys...

"I don't always use presence...but when I do, the ladies find me irresistible."

"The power of presence."

 I know I am being silly now. But this dare reminds us, that simple and real presence is so so good. and it is free.

I also know I am not reinventing anything here. The Buddhists, Sufists and Yogis have been saying this for thousands of years. I did not invent presence. I just found it again, buried in a closet- and remembered once again its' magic. Presence is "the wheel" of traits- a design that cannot be improved upon.

  Brene Brown has encouraged tapping into the concept of daring- and before her, generations of adolescents playing Truth or Dare. I also know I did not invent daring. The idea is that of tapping into a forgotten power and the beauty of these simple things is that each human manifests them differently. 

   We have had a couple of subsequent no tech nights since then. We have invited friends over (not to our bedroom, of course!). We’ve played instruments, we’ve laid down and looked at the stars- things we might do while camping but we never left the house.

   I hope you enjoy your no-tech/no-lights dare. I would love to hear your stories, thoughts, ideas, or revelations. Tomorrow is our next no-tech night (Matt does not know- he is out of town) – maybe you are somewhere sharing the experience. Tell me about it.

 

P.S.

Yesterday we photographed the honey-vanilla sundae for this blog post with the help an artist friend, Sophia Rose. We recreated the sundae for the image. Because the pink sea salt was so pretty I used a lot of it for the photograph- maybe too much. After the photos were finished, we ate the sundae together. I thought I may have added too much salt for it to be tasty. But I was wrong- it was amazing- mmm out-loud good.

The Honey Sundae was like my aunt; unique, sweet, layered, lovely and maybe a bit too salty for some. But not for me. 

Aunt Honey Sundae

1 scoop vanilla HaagenDazs Ice Cream

drizzle of raw local honey

sprinkle of pink Himalayan sea salt

 

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Memorial  Stone for Aunt Honey

I dare you to climb a tree today.

Write to me. Tell me how it felt. Send me pics. 

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Today I woke up, got my coffee and began to write my daily to-do list, when the feeling washed over me that there was nothing more important I could do today than climb a tree. 

    With the recent news of the death of the Great Barrier Reef on my mind, there is a temptation to fall into despair. Yet- there is another force that calls; the vibrant green of the newest leaves against the rich dark of the older leaves,  the rustle like glittering coins, the exploding scent of the Lindens-. 

    Maybe I will set the to-do list aside and dust off the childlike friendship with nature- Not the mature hiking, backpacking relationship of adulthood- but the one of awe, danger, imagination and bewilderment.

 There is really nothing on this to-do list that is more important than that. It occurs to me that if we can find that innocent relationship with nature we can allow the earth to help us remember how to take care of her. 

Climb a tree with me today. Send me a picture, a story, a poem. Share this post- dare 10 friends. If you cannot physically climb a tree, lean your body against one- linger there. Find the innocence that runs beneath knowledge. Play. 

Dare to check your privilege

Last Wednesday I took a break from writing to go to Sprouts, a grocery store that has great organic produce. There are a few reasons I chose this store, the staff is always friendly, they make a practice of hiring staff with developmental challenges, and they have great sales on Wednesdays. Even though I have a good job, I still live paycheck to paycheck and seek out deals where I can find them.

       It was about 95 degrees that day and when I got to the store I was really really thirsty. I grabbed my cart and headed towards the refrigerators. I scanned the delicious array of drinks in glass bottles and selected a lime coconut sparkling water with probiotics. mmmmm I was so ready to end my thirst with thisdrink. I was getting ready to open it with the intention of paying for it when I got to the counter- when a jarring thought occurred to me. What if I were a black man right now instead of the white woman that I am? I froze. If that were true, I would definitely not open this bottle without having paid for it first. I certainly wouldn't assume that people would give me the benefit of the doubt assuming I was going to pay for it. When I was a child an adult in my family probably taught me that this was an acceptable practice. -but I imagine that other children, especially those of color, did not get the same message. I had never really thought about it before.

       Even if I were a black man making ten times the salary of the salary that I do, I still wouldn't feel entitled to open that bottle in the store. This realization shook me to the core and I gently put the bottle down. For the duration of my shopping trip I considered my thirst and the mild discomfort of it. It felt like an important discomfort- the beginning of something. -Perhaps it was a small act of conscious disequilibrium.

      Back in April of this year, I met John B. Smith, a renowned civil rights activist one of the pioneers of the influential Invaders movement of the 60's. I was invited by a friend to provide music for the an event for Smith's latest project- in which he is inviting people to tell the true stories of lynchings in this country. This is a beautiful and terrifying invitation for all of us to face the shadows and the beastly cruelty in our own history. I asked my profoundly talented friend Aja Black of the pro-social hip-hop band The Reminders and my equally talented friend Harriet- of the solo project, I am Harriet to this with me. We created a hybrid of the Bob Marley's' "No Woman No Cry" and the Beatles "Let it Be." Then the speakers came out and one by one told the true stories of lynching, courageously relaying the most horrific cruelties imaginable. Everyone was in the audience was crying. The pain in my heart was almost unbearable- no wonder we don't want to hide from these things- but we know we can't. I felt heavy and inadequate.

     I tried to raise my children as kind and equitable beings. When they asked if we could sing the gospel song "Swing Low", we first agreed that we must try to understand cultural appropriation, and know that that song was sung by people whose reality was so terrible that they were wishing for the mercy of death. I taught them about the difficulty of being a woman in the world, and the realities of rape and violence against women but I never sat them down and talked to them about the lynchings on the south- nor the concentration camps on our own soil for Japanese Americans during WW1. I imagine that the reality in other households is probably different- especially in households where there are children of races that have been victims of oppression. Do they have to learn about potential prejudice before ever even going to school? Probably.

     During the presentation John B. told us if the incident in which he was accused of stealing his own gas cap as maybe the defining moment of injustice that finally turned him into the bold activist he became. This event and the painful awareness of the sea of dark violence and cruelty in our history makes me feel inadequate to begin to try to reach past the invisible lines. He looked directly at me with so much genuine compassion and said simply, "You just have to. You are a good person. You can do it. White people have guilt about the past and black people have anger. We can't let it keep us apart." 

          YESSSSS! 100 times over. I want to do something, anything- yet already I am worried about the response to this post. I have journalist friends who claim they wouldn't dare write about race or racial issues, and many have suggested that I don't try to either. Perhaps doing this will be early career suicide- but I can't live like a coward. I could never be proud of myself or be a good example for my children if I tucked these feelings away to stay safe and comfortable. I promise that I know there is much more to it and much more to be done to address this monumental issue, but we have to start somewhere. We all have privileges and disadvantages be it economic, racial, social, physical, age related, emotional or otherwise.         

      My daughter who is now 19 grew up with a leg deformity and has had several painful surgeries and procedures to correct it over the course of her life. This year, her senior year in high school, she had another corrective surgery which again put her in a wheel chair after several years of enjoying relatively normal ambulation. During this time she experienced things differently. Many of the changes were positive, people wanted to help carry her books or get through difficult doorways or over curbs. While her leg often hurt, her elevator pass gave her the chance to meet a friend in the elevator who didn't have a left leg. She had to concentrate on the content of her courses through the haze of medication, like many others do on a daily basis. Although it didn't characterize her daily experience, she definitely experienced discrimination. Once while in a retail store that she loved and frequented often the shopkeeper scowled at her and said "Don't knock anything over." and then muttered under her breath "if you do you won''t be able to afford to replace it." My daughter had shopped there many times before without a visible handicap and the staff had been friendly and eager to help. This was an eye opening experience for her.

      The interesting thing about this time in history- when we have an elitist president in office who blatantly and publicly favors the rich- we are acutely aware of the ways that oppression has crossed racial lines. It may become even more obvious once the health care bill begins to manifest. This disillusionment, I believe, puts us in a unique position to try even harder to understand one another and connect. Indeed many people are already doing just that.

       This truth and dare project has been my way to engage with the world in ways I haven't before. Again, I invite you to come with me. I make no promises, and offer nothing. I don't even know what will happen, but I could use some company on the journey.

Dare to check your privilege

1. Today when you go out imagine you are a different race, or gender. Check in with that before everything you do. How is it different? Can you even know. Write it down.

2.Do the same thing as above but imagine you are a transgender or gender neutral. How would things be different then?

3.Do the same imagining you are handicapped, in a wheelchair or without one of your limbs.

4.Ride the bus- if you don't normally. Talk to someone if you can.

5.Share your lunch with a homeless person. Sit down with them and talk.

6.Try leaving your wallet at home. Instead take only $10 dollars with you. Double dare: take only $5.

7.Read the memoir of someone who has experienced a brain injury.

8.Have a meal at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, bring your children or a niece or nephew.

9.Read the story of a lynching out loud to anyone who lives with you.

10.Ask anyone over 70 if they remember the civil rights movement talk about it. Listen only and ask questions.

11.Have an evening dedicated to talking about one of the types of oppression this country has seen. Do it weekly.

12. Try going for 3 days without changing your clothing.

13. Leave your jacket at home on a day you would normally wear one.

14. Pick something that you use daily... give it up for the day.

15. Eat a meal that comes from a can. Double dare.  Eat it cold.

These are only a few ideas. Please share more if you have them. Give me your feedback- thispost feels lonely and scary. So if you feel like chiming in, comments are enabled, I'd love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 John B. Smith in Colorado Springs

John B. Smith in Colorado Springs

Daring Truths

 

     Earlier this summer I confessed to a friend that I want for this truth and dare project to be big- really, really big with a million or more followers. I use the word confess here because saying something like this feels totally unreasonable- delusional even, as I imagine it does to many other dreamers. Anyway, this friend is someone I admire for being very honest- even to a fault. I told her I I had considered that if I dared to create this movement and it caught-on, I would likely face a rash of criticism.  I asked her how I could "practice" dealing with negative feedback and being criticized.

     Being a good friend and a brassy loud-mouth from Ireland who actually loves me deeply, she was happy to oblige. We set up a sacred space of love and acceptance between us. My heart was racing with fear just as it has when I climbed to the top of Bishops Castle last summer. I wondered if it wasn't too late to back out. Funny, I thought to myself, that I would have the same level of fear at being confronted with criticism that I had at the prospect of falling to my death. I considered this for a moment and laughed out loud and then I dove straight in to the conversation. I did my best to consider everything she said without scrambling to defend myself. I heard about my dorkiness, my safe and guarded behavior, my less than stellar rhythm and a bit more and I found that... I liked it!  A lot. The fear... the living through it. All of it felt very alive and new. Rather than feeling less loved I felt more loved. Crazy!

     I spent the rest the day spelunking in my psyche. I put a microscope to my emotional triggers and asked myself why these things bothered me.  I behaved as a field researcher- an archeologist in my the shadow caves of my inner universe. Then I started poking and prodding at things to see how they would respond to light. 

      At the very top of the list of my emotional triggers sat the queen herself. Gossip; The idea of people might say bad things or untrue things about me behind my back. This was a big thing in the world I grew up in,- talking about people the minute they left the room. Sometimes it would be in a sappy-pitying tone other times just plain ridicule and judgement. It always made me uncomfortable because I knew that they would do it to me too- just as soon as I left the room. As an adult, I carefully curated my community to be full of sincere and honest friends so I had all but forgotten about this old trigger cut. 

     Earlier in the year, I found out that my sister had been talking about me behind my back to our father. I was enraged. ENRAGED. To me, it was the absolute worst thing she could do to me. I was so furious that I blocked her on facebook and cut her out of my life completely- I even blocked her number- refusing to receive any communication from her whatsoever. I thought it would solve the hurt that I felt, but honestly it did not. It was stressful and painful and came at a great cost to me. Yet, I was so self-righteous and convinced of the justness of my stance that I stayed in that unpleasant muck for months. I was sad and lonely, I still loved my sister despite the betrayal- and it felt terrible.

    Now I was asking myself Why did I care so much? -The easy answer was that she had disrespected me and betrayed me in a cowardly way by talking about me when I wasn't even there to defend myself. Certainly, I could garner a lot of support for that position, and I found a plethora of that kind of support by collecting Pinterest meme quotes. But that answer did nothing but help to fortify the position that was already making me suffer- so I looked deeper. The vulnerable truth beneath it all was that I just wanted my dad to love me. My mother and I have had a long history of problems getting along, but my dad always seemed to 'get me'. At the time I felt that she was interfering with my right to be loved by the one parent who still talks to me. Now I was onto something, I thought. This was the truth of my inner-child, the vulnerable being inside that just wants to be loved and accepted. Yes yes yes! So painful and so true. 

   Since I had some time on my hands I kept asking questions, kept venturing ever deeper into the narrow tunnels of my ego. Did I just want to be loved by my dad or did I want to be loved and validated by everyone?  I found the latter to be true and it felt vulnerable and real. I both liked and disliked this naked feeling. I thought, I don't like gossip or to be disliked so I manipulate the way others see me by always trying to put my best foot forward. Aha!! THIS! . This was something true but shameful,- something I would try to hide from anyone else at all costs. It was the verbal equivalent of an ugly-selfie.

     Inspired by the introspective author Glennon Doyle and her book Love Warrior, I did something very daring and strange.

     Rather than hiding this unattractive thing about myself from people- I decided to do the exact opposite. I posted it on facebook.

truth: A big fear I have is that people will gossip or say bad things about me behind my back. Why? Because it deprives me of the right to manipulate how others see me.

OOHmygoodness. When I hit post I felt like I had jumped off a cliff. A social cliff.  I was breathless for a moment. I had to leave my phone at home and go for a walk to prevent myself from scrambling to take it down. I wondered if the next time I logged on to social media I would find that I had only three remaining friends, my husband and my two daughters.

    Of course that didn't happen, but I definitely got a wave of response. I got a lot of big-eyed wow emoticons, and some sad-crying emoticons. There were some heart emoticons from friends who probably wanted to reassure me that they loved me anyway. A few people wanted to know if I was ok- and I assured them that I was. Lots of people responded with the quote "What other people think of you is none of your business."-Something I decided I could agree with to a point- but had never freed me from my fear of it. Other people responded with comments such as "don't bother worrying about what others think, they don't matter. Just be yourself and have fun" and a dear friend responded with the quote- from Bernard Baruch-Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." I agree that these quotes have value but yet I still had to disagree. What if the person who talks behind your back is a family member- or a friend that you hurt? What if all people matter? No matter what they have done. Pretending not to care or that the perpetrators of hurt don't matter may do the trick in the moment and help us move on but I think it is a defense mechanism. Honestly, the truth is, I have never been good at it. I still care, and I still think people matter.

        Really, I think there is a reason that we wish to be lovable to others and the reason isn't inherently bad.- Perhaps the reason is a natural longing for "connectedness". Maybe longing for approval means we are simply hoping that we can be good enough to be connected to others- to be part of the tribe. Is that really so wrong? Maybe not.

      Maybe even the pussy-grabbing malignant narcissists of the world, the sex offenders, the cheaters and the liars, the polluters, the murderers, the gossipers and back stabbers matter too. Maybe they are reaching out for the love and approval of their parents and peers. Maybe they are trying desperately to be approved of to be worthy of connection to be loved and lovable. Maybe they are settling for negative acknowledgement when they have failed to get the affirmation they were seeking. No doubt the way they go about it may be totally messed-up but many of us are guilty of that. Sometimes when I am mad at some one I imagine blowing them up in smoke in my mind. I don't do it, of course, but am I really so different than the person on prison for life who actually did? Maybe not.  While we try not to, many of us are still protecting the ego in some way that hurts or blocks other people or even damages the planet. Yet we still want to matter and we do. ( I am prone to tangents- yet another one of my delicious flaws.)

       As you probably guessed- I did not lose all of my cyber friends and I did not die from admitting the truth. People probably did not even think it was a very big deal. The thing that appeared as a gnarling, drooling dragon/monster in my personal underworld was more like a cranky kitten when I brought it into the light- or better yet an awkward hairless kitten looking confused and bewildered. I liked how I felt when I did this. I felt strange, vulnerable, impossibly uncool, naked in the cafeteria- yet very, very alive. It was a tingly new feeling and I wanted more. 

     So I kept going.  Here are some awkward creatures from my shadow places. Rest assured I still love myself a lot- maybe more- there isn't anyone I would rather be than me. There may be a self -deprecating tone- but doubt lives in the shadow. I cannot pretend otherwise. You may want to roll your eyes- some of them aren't so bad, but believe me, they seemed scary when I first found them down there. Others are worse. Either way here, are my fifteen. That is probably enough.

15 Truths

truth: A big fear I have is that people will gossip or say bad things about me behind my back. Why? Because it deprives me of the right to manipulate how others see me.

truth#2: despite the fact that I am outraged by racism, few of my actual friends are of different races. I don't know how to change it and I am uncomfortable talking openly about race- I fear rejection and ridicule.

truth #3: I am so so disorganized and I am not at all ok with with it. I have read books and gone to trainings- and bought countless magazines to fix this but I have not been able to.

truth #3: I don't really believe in belief. I'd gladly take curiosity over belief any day.

truth #4: I don't really like achievement. Graduations and awards ceremonies are really boring and tedious to me. I prefer human connection over awards and certificates- even it it amounts to nothing on paper. ( I am afraid this truth could cost me my job because I am a high-school teacher.)

truth #5: I am an avoider of confrontation. I am afraid that I will lose people forever or find out that i am the one who is wrong.

truth #6 I prefer my human smells even body odor to that of perfume. I think I shower less that the average person.

truth#8: I procrastinate. A lot. To an embarrassing degree. I even procrastinate on things I WANT to do. I still don't know why.

truth #8: I have spent most of my life trying to fit in with the cool kids but deep inside, I know

I will never be cool. not ever.

I am warm and alive.

(The fallout and the comments from this one were so interesting and funny that they deserve their own blog post- which I will deliver after procrastinating for a while)

truth #9: I feel that I am a disappointment to my parents, even though I am an adult. To my mother I feel that I am not sweet or generous enough, and that I am waaaayyy to brassy and sassy-Also that I am not as good a cook as my sisters- and I definitely do not cook often enough.

To my father I feel that I am not successful enough nor do I make enough money- also that I lack a masters or a PHDfeels like a disappointment.  ( I did not publish this one on social media- because I didn't want to hurt them)

truth#10: I sometimes feel like a crummy parent and wife. Too wild and untamed- not structured enough. I marvel that my two daughters turned out to be so amazing- and that I am still happily married to an awesome husband.

truth#11: Medicine is a secret passion of mine. I wanted to become a doctor, like my father, but never admitted it. I figured I was too lazy or not intelligent enough to get through medical school- still he has always been one of my heroes. I still sometimes read medical journals in my free time.

truth #12: Even more than being a doctor I dreamed of being a writer. I feared that it would be nearly impossible to make a living that way, or even worse finding out that I had no talent. Also writing a book seemed to require a lot of stillness and a lot of alone time, neither of which I like. So I became a socially acceptable coward instead.

truth#13: While I like my job as a teacher a lot, it is not my true passion. I learned Spanish to be able to communicate with lots of different types of people all over the world- but that is not how I use it.

truth#14: I have been told on several occasions that I come off as "aloof". The truth is so so different than that. I can appear that way because I am either daydreaming or I deliberately learned to behave that way so that people would not find out how much I want to know and connect with them and think that I am weird. I am.

truth #15: Daydreaming is still one of my favorite things to do. I often have delusions of grandeur with my daydreams. For example, I imagine that this daring movement could cause a ripple and affect millions of people somehow- and that I will be on the New York Times best seller list and giving a TED talk, traveling all over the world giving talks, leading life changing retreats. etc...

 

    Two bonus truths- just for fun and because I am bad at following rules, even if I made them up.

truth#16- The main reason that I am not procrastinating and actually writing this chapter is because I hurt my back and I am lying in bed on a heating pad rather than puttering around the house and I had dared myself NOT to turn on the TV for the month of June so I am just writing.

truth #17- I sometimes let envy prevent me  from fully enjoying the gift of other humans. especially women

       The unexpected side effect of bringing the shadow lurkers to the light is that many of them seemed to scatter and run away. That is to say, a few weeks after this exercise  some of these truths were no longer "true". It seems that having  released the idea of wanting to manipulate how others see me by looking good or putting my best foot forward- I no longer could even "find" the desire to do so. Instead with nothing to fear I came in as a full expression of true self. My willingness to do so at times seemed to give others permission be authentic as well and I found myself enjoying deeper more fulfilling interactions- being fed by the  joy of authentic connection rather than the hollow and temporary boost of the ego. 

    

 

So there they are. Why not tell me some of yours? I promise you unconditional love and acceptance.